Even today, the New Birth Church website gives no indication that Bishop Eddie Long has died at the age of 63. Instead of an announcement, what you see are the following: “Year of Victory: From Vision to Victory” and a quote from Bishop Long: “God is still raising you up to set the captives free, to subdue the nations and affect the culture.”
The New Birth Church membership and leadership has sustained itself through scandal, tragedy, a divorce filing of the first family, Bishop Long’s recent frail looking appearance, and now his death. That the church is still standing after all of this, that the website today is firmly focused on the future, is a testimony to the enduring hope and vision of Bishop Eddie Long.
Last fall, pictures surfaced on the internet of Bishop Long much smaller than many of us who watched him weekly remembered him looking. His explanation was a raw vegetable diet, according to Christian Post, which he says he was on for High Blood Pressure. He announced on October 16, 2016 that God had healed him of his non-disclosed his illness. Now, three month later, we learn that Bishop Long has passed.
Bishop Long preached a sermon in early 2016 where he says he contemplated suicide. Many speculated that this was in response to allegations of sexual abuse by men that he mentored in the church back in 2010. Bishop Long said it was not scripture but rather the fact that the members of New Birth continued showing up that kept him alive. Following those 2010 allegations and a divorce filing by his wife, Bishop Long stepped down as pastor of his flock to focus on his family. Bishop Long had been Senior Pastor of New Birth since 1987 and dismissed the Board of Directors to assume complete control over the vision and decision-making of the church. Under his direction, New Birth saw its membership grow to 8,000 in 5 years and at its apex saw a membership of 18,000.
Although Vanessa Long never went through with the divorce, many people left the church after Bishop Long paid an undisclosed sum of money to his accusers in an out-of-court settlement. Whatever happened during the course of those relationships and the palpable pain in those men’s voice as they told of their encounters, it was up to Bishop Long to make peace with himself and his actions. His voice and vision will forever live on in New Birth.
Bishop Eddie Long was a voice of hope and healing for a generation of believers and those who struggled to see the relevancy of the gospel. We can only hope that the same healing he preached about was present for him in his last days.